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Injustice Served by Ray Culos - A Book Launch and Discussion

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When the Second World War broke out, a thriving Italian population of 4500 lived in Vancouver.
Then on June 10, 1940, when Fascist Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini joined forces with Nazi Germany, Italy was suddenly at war with Canada. Any sense of normality in Vancouver’s Italian community vanished. Lives would be forever changed.
Canada’s federal government of the day invoked the War Measures Act, which led to the detention and internment of 44 Italian Canadian men residing in Vancouver. They were heads of households, taken to camps away from their families in Kananaskis, Alberta, then later Petawawa, Ontario. Around 2,000 more were designated as “Enemy Aliens.” Some members of this category were Italian nationals living near air, rail and shipping facilities, considered secondary-level security risks by the Federal government, they weren’t forcibly interned at camps but were told to move away from the Pacific Coast to the B.C. Interior, away from strategic facilities. The rest of this group were allowed to remain at home, but were required to report to the RCMP every month. The developments had profound psychological and financial effects on these individuals and their families.
It was a complex, confusing time during which Vancouver’s Italian community had to choose its allegiances. The Italian Consulate in Vancouver encouraged people to declare their loyalty to Il Duce, Benito Mussolini. But an Italian lawyer in Vancouver, Angelo Branca, created an anti-fascist organization called the Canadian-Italian War Vigilance Association to counter this view. Loyalties were challenged and a community was deeply divided.
Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre is telling the story of this period through three major projects, collectively titled A Question of Loyalty. It has received federal funding for a book, a play and a museum exhibition, to explore and shed light on this little-known but significant period in Vancouver’s wartime history.
Local Italian-Canadian author Ray Culos is writing a book, Injustice Served, the story of BC’s World War Two Italian Enemy Aliens.
Vancouver theatre company Bella Luna Productions and playwright Lucia Frangione have created a new play, Fresco, about the lasting impact of the internment on one woman’s family.
Il Museo, the museum at the Italian Cultural Centre, will feature a special exhibition called Beyond the Barbed Wire: experiences of Italian Canadians in World War Two, to examine the effects of the War Measures Act on the local community. It will include memorabilia of the families affected by the internment, including wooden carvings by one of the internees and the war medals of one Italian “enemy alien” who served in the Canadian Navy.
The project will be launched March 6, 2012, at the ICC. Attendees will be able to view the thought-provoking exhibit, obtain a copy of Mr. Culos’s book and reflect on events that, while legal at the time, are not consistent with the values of present-day Canada.
Its aim is to explore these events through the lens of that time in order to obtain a clearer understanding of why they occurred and how there were no easy answers. It is sure to get people to ask themselves: “In these circumstances, what would I have done?”